One Gift to Return

Have you noticed how many smiles you see?  Or don’t, in this overly busy time of year when buzzing around making returns, shopping, doing errands, or whatever tasks need to be done.   I counted only one smile today.  And it was a wide one as another customer and I passed each other at the store.

One priceless gift to return is take one second and smile — at whomever you encounter.  It’s a gift to yourself as well.  You don’t have to say anything, although a pleasant word is a bonus.  As is a smile returned.

 

When you smile, your face muscles trigger a release of endorphins.  Helping to reduce stress levels, they are responsible for making you — and others — feel happy.

So the next time you see someone, offer up a smile.  Like a breadth of fresh air in a weary day, notice how much lighter you feel too and it didn’t cost you a penny.  Just one…second…of conscious…thought.  A gift you can be happy to return.

It’s true.  Smile and the whole world smiles with you.

 

Set the energy in motion…Let it begin with you.happy dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Still

“To be still, get still,” popped into my head while feeling dizzily over-stimulated from noisy store crowds, parties, and meandering traffic this week.   The holidays can drain anyone and especially with technology’s hastened pace and constant bombardment.

For many years I’ve chosen to celebrate the holidays through the beauty of the land.  Whether it’s gathering aromatic pine boughs on the morning of Christmas Eve or breathlessly climbing a steep slope of evergreens to gain fresh perspective on New Year’s Day — intimately connecting with Mother Nature is my holiday spirit.  It is the quiet, the crunch of my boots in the snow, the sun warming my face, and breathing in fresh pine, that speaks to me deep within.  Glowing candlelight and a poinsettia paint the mellow ambience I love.   Add in laughter, healthy food and hand drumming with friends, and voila’; I’ve created a non-traditional holiday out of love, not stressful obligation.  And as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I want for nothing more.

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This year, I’ve received wise words from unexpected sources — women I’ve never met but with whom I share a Nature-focused spiritual path:

  • Particularly comforting in the midst of losing so many trees to pipeline construction are the words of a Yoruba priest: “Nature is resilient. The trees will come and go – some naturally and some by the needs and destructiveness of man.  Don’t cry for the trees.  They have served their purpose and they have planted their seeds.  They have helped those of the earth in many ways – the humans, the animals, the air, the soil, and other nature beings. Their spirit is resilient and they will be reborn in other forms and once again, serve their purpose. Perhaps one of them lies in you.  This is the nature of life.” 

pine candle

 

 

 

The Sacred Science Pinecone Meditation

Find a pine cone and place it in front of you. Gaze at the pinecone for a full minute, then close your eyes and imagine the pinecone-shape behind your third eye. Envision the scales of the pinecone unfolding and opening to take in nourishment from Divine Light, and see your pinecone-shaped pineal gland energized and radiant. In this space, consider all the benefits of pine medicine and imagine this energy as a white light healing your mind, body, and spirit.

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The wisdom of the land is why I love it so.Santa Key Smile  It teaches me about living life.

 

Presents

Madison Avenue says Christmas is about presents. Lots of them.

christmas presents galore

I say that’s a typo.  It’s about presence — lots of it.  Be present with yourself, loved ones, and each moment you (hopefully) come in contact with someone.  Well, anyone for that matter.  This is more than sitting next to someone while staring into a device.  It’s about being mentally present, focused on your interaction with that person.  Giving someone your attention is as true a gift as it gets.

It’s easy to “buy” some thing and hand it to someone or the more recent scenario of leaving it on someone’s desk or at their door.  How many obligatory gifts have you received that were a pre-packaged something-for-anyone that you didn’t use? same gift Note:  “re-gifting” was created for a reason.  Yes, some will say, “It’s the thought that counts.”  I counter, “How much thought was there?”  A sincere kind word or sentiment means more.  At least to me.

More precious and worthy than material gifts, giving time is a gift so large it can’t be wrapped in any box yet overflows the heart. Ask a soldier being deployed or a dying patient.  Ask your spouse.  Do they wish they had more time?  Do you feel overly stressed that there isn’t enough time?  Stopping the distraction and being present is the most generous gift of and to thyself.  (Hard lesson learned — see prior post “Meager.”)

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You can give yourself the gift of time by being in Nature.  Whether planting the season’s garden or trekking through the woods, time seems to slow without the constant pings of phones or e-mail.  The stillness of  Nature’s tranquil beauty reaches the soul.  Gift your time by being present with others this holiday season.  Play with your children.  Visit an elderly person.  Smile at the store clerk.

Feel the isolation and loneliness disappear as you put down your device and look into someone’s eyes when they speak to you.  Listen to what they have to say.  Offer something in return.  Maybe it’s just a hug, or thank you to Nature.

 Time – The Perfect Gift for You and Everyone on Your List white-male-1740707_1280

 

Daily Prompt: Meager

There they were,  in plain sight — my car keys laying on the driver’s seat and cell phone plugged into the charger.  In the midst of holiday shopping, with several more stops to go, I wanted to get home before heavy traffic stole more time.  Oh well.

The biting cold stung my uncovered ears and head — my hat lay on the passenger seat too.  Walking back into the dollar store, I asked the cashier if I could use the phone because I locked my keys in the car.   The skinny, high-school looking girl asked her manager if I could use the phone.   I dialed home.  Busy.  Now what?

girl looking up blurReading my anxiety over tieing up the store’s phone and her time, the girl’s colossal black olive eyes looked up at me, “Do you have Triple A?” she asked.

“No.  No, I don’t.”  I didn’t tell her I gave it up years ago when the price kept increasing and they appeared more interested in selling travel plans than providing road side assistance.  Instead, I’d obtained the same service through my car insurance but alas, that information was also in my locked car.  Sigh.

“Well, I do.   You can use mine,” she said while reaching for her purse under the checkout stand.

“I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“It’s okay.  I’ve been through this.  I know what it’s like,” she smiled, her teeth jutting  from sunken cheekbones confined by strands of fine hair barely warming her bony shoulders.  Pulling out her AAA card, she showed me the account number and phone number to call.  I felt surprised and relieved all at once.

Someone finally responded at Triple AAA and after I provided the required information, told me they would arrive in 45 minutes to an hour.  The young clerk told me to just sign her name when the serviceman arrived but that I should wait inside the warm store.  I don’t know if I was more stunned by her blind trust in me or her thoughtfulness in today’s self-involved world.

“Thank you.  Thank you for your kindness.  I so appreciate it,” I said.  She waved off my offer of a $20 bill even though she most likely earns a $7.25 minimum wage.  I insisted, “Please.  You’ve been so generous in helping me.”  Her wide smile reappeared, and I walked away thinking…

Isn’t life interesting how our needs are met?

grateful help outline

via Daily Prompt:  Meager

Featured image:  unsplash-logoMitchel Lensink

Original image (modified) of girl:unsplash-logoAlexander Mils

Taming the Holidays

“Ping!” my car doors locked as I headed toward the grocery store, dodging rush hour cars veering into tight parking spots then carts barreling into the entrance.   No one was smiling. Including me.

For years I’ve dreaded the Christmas holidays and for nearly as many years, I’ve sought to santa headache-1understand why.  Dysfunctional Christmases of my youth reveal anticipated Norman Rockwell (virtual) holidays severed by the reality of family arguments and chaos.  Young adulthood in a city several hours away still felt the angst of coming home for the holidays. By midlife when stores began pushing Christmas before Halloween and then Labor Day, I felt so weary of Christmas that I too jumped ahead, seeking spring’s relief (post Easter Bunny).

Wise counsel lessened the Christmas Madness.  “Make the holidays what you want them to be,” my friend said, “Not what others think you should do, or just because it’s always been done a particular way.  Create your own tradition or celebration.  You decide how much and what you want to do.”  Wow!  What a life changing concept.

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Several decades and layers of understanding later, I realize I can be free of holiday chaos and not be a scrooge.  Each year, I reassess my participation and focus on what is most important, what stirs my soul.  Baking cookies went by the way side.  Too many calories, too tempting, and too time consuming.  Besides, by January my regret would weigh as much as the extra pounds.  I reduced one hundred Christmas cards with personal messages to only contacting those farthest away or the elderly.  This year, those Christmas cards evolved to “giving thanks” cards in November — a more relaxed time to express heartfelt sentiments. Once I consciously chose to ignore marketing’s mantra to buy-buy-buy, and the stigma that Christmas should look like XYZ, I felt more free.

Back at the grocery store, a woman’s cart blocks the bread aisle.  Politely offering, “Excuse me,” I attempt to push past, discovering she is mid conversation on her phone.  Others wheel through the aisles, their eyes downcast to the left or right.  I wonder if they’re taking time to reflect what Christmas is supposed to be about or if they are consumed with get-get-get, then how to pay-pay-pay for all of the (mostly unnecessary) stuff.  Flashing Christmas lights and blinding glittery ornaments compete with well-worn carols and shopper specials blaring through the loudspeaker.  Rows of cash register dings punctuate long lines of overwhelming chatter and ring tones ranging from sirens to barking dogs.   No one smiles.

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I recall recent blog posts and news stories on Smartphone and social media addiction.  Unhappiness.  Loneliness.  Accelerated rates of depression linked to the number of hours on a device.  I see it on the faces around me.  And while my participation in these things is little to null, the over stimulation of Christmas is magnified for an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) like me.

Do you have a hard time with the Christmas holidays?  Are you one of those persons who hear the shotgun start at Thanksgiving, rush breathlessly to Christmas, then drop across the finish line of New Years?  How do you cope with this season?  Do you wish you could blink your eyes and the holidays would be over?  (Not to rush your life, but…)

You have more control over this than you think you do.  And once you let go of the shoulds and obligatory traditions, engagements and gifts, you set yourself (and often pocketbook) free.  Consciously choosing to make the holiday manageable equates to a more enjoyable time for you and everyone around you.  Try it.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

stress-relax

 

 

Mother Nature’s Midlife Crisis

Dear Mother Nature,

Are you not feeling well?  I’m wondering if you’re going through “the change” offering an unsettling summer and surprising autumn.  And how ’bout the Nor’easter that cancelled St. Patty’s Day parades earlier this year?

Was it night sweats or hot flashes that made our summer uncharacteristically rainy and humid?  Or when you swooshed 81 degree night air through my moon roof late September, and 70 degree temps on Manhattan’s sidewalks the first week of November that plummeted to 20 degrees only days later?

Generations debated your behavior for over 200 years and I’m just as perplexed.  Legions of soft leaves fell to the ground this summer amidst dizzying dog day temps.  Itchy allergy season never ceased.  Cucumber plants still loaded with blossoms in October bore no fruit, and tomatoes waited til autumn to ripen this year.  Harvest was askew.  Were you tired and sleeping late?

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unripened tomatoes on my windowsill

I understand if anxiety and depression are over-shadowing your concentration.  It’s heartbreaking to watch people cast you aside like a battered wife while others honor and try to protect you.  Perhaps your irritability is simply fighting back the only way you know how — launching hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods, one right after the other.

It may comfort you to know your panic attacks are gaining attention.  A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll reported that weather tragedies recruited more believers in climate change.

october 2017 roses and pine needlesContemplating the paradox of pink roses with fallen pine needles and burgundy hardy mums, I wonder if you’ve misplaced your date book…are the changing seasons of my homeland lost with your youth — and mine?

Decades ago, I grew up with four distinctive seasons.  Spring was spring; flowers bloomed, birds chirped, lighter coats replaced heavy wool.  Summer felt hot; fans whirred and fireflies dotted nighttime skies.  Walking on crunchy leaves in crisp autumn mornings transformed to warming hands around glowing bonfires.  Winter’s beauty was in its starkness and alluring silence from newly fallen snow.  Those were my reliable seasons until your mood swings took control.  If you’re going to go through “the change,” do you think you could relax into year-round, sunny blue skies and 70 degree temps?

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Are you observing changes in your own environment, like erratic temperatures this year?   What do you think is happening with Mother Nature?

Don’t Jump in if You Don’t Want to Jump Out

Dr. Perry’s post on “Steps to Overcome Technology Addiction” confirms the feelings I’ve had about technology for a long time.  It is sadly deteriorating society, our peace, and our minds.  I wonder how this will affect the elderly when the tech generation rules.  How much empathy and compassion will be shown?  Will that be nonexistent like good manners?

More and more businesses and government herd people to the internet.  Blind “followers” are too willing to give up their personal information and freedoms.  I wonder what these techie minds will do when their computers are hacked.  Will they know how to think and problem solve on their own?  Seeing how people stumble into traffic while looking at their phones is a telltale sign.  People barely know their street address  or phone number anymore.

Many times I’d like to disconnect from e-mail as it robs me of precious time where I could be enjoying more fulfilling activities and interactions.  As previously shared, I’ve consciously chosen to avoid most social media for these and the reasons stated in the post.  Reading it reaffirms that my decisions have been worthy.  I hope reblogging it will help someone before they fall hopelessly into the black hole of disassociating with living real life.  I must continually uphold my values for connecting with humans and nature.  That is what brings me serenity and joy — not a nerve-wracking bell tieing me to a device even if it is only a PC.

Still, I don’t want to fall so far behind that I can no longer function in a technological world.  Trying to balance technology working for me without becoming enslaved to it is a constant struggle.  I use a landline and answering machine.  It works fine.  I don’t answer my pay as you go cell phone because it’s only for emergencies. When someone looks at me as not being “with it” then is distracted answering their cell phone or text, I wonder “who is the one not with it?” For a split second I may be tempted to fall into the traps of technology, but my go-to motto saves me: “Don’t jump in if you don’t want to jump out.”

Come Together

I’ve just returned from a smooth jazz festival in Cancun.  Based on the line-up, I knew the music would be excellent but I hadn’t counted on it raining every day.   This could have ruined a beach vacation but instead restored my hope in humankind.

Moving the outdoor stage indoors due to the rain created extremely long delays.  Attendees grew agitated standing in the hot, crowded lobby waiting for a show 2 hours past due.  Several shrieking whistle calls and nearly universal “Shhh!” tried to temper angry shouts from the crowd blaring out explanation of the delay.   Even after the update, offer of chairs and cold drinks, some stiffly crossed their arms while drilling holes into the doors with their glaring eyes.

And then something happened.  Programmed music came on and a few started dancing.  And then a few more.  I could feel the shift.  More and more people began dancing until most of the grumbling lobby turned into a dance floor of good vibes and smiles.

Watching the people transform an unpleasant situation into an uplifting one was magic before my eyes.   (After that night, attendees danced to programmed music from any delay until show time.)

I think a lot of us learned from that experience — if the people come together and choose light, it will be light.  Just ask, “Do I feel better complaining or does it make me feel more miserable?  Does staying angry make me feel powerful,  in control?  Or do I feel better being part of the solution?”

A postscript…message received from a friend this evening…

“Peace of mind is an internal matter.
It must begin with your own thoughts
and then extend outward.
It is from your peace of mind
that a peaceful perception of the world
arises.”
                                                     — A Course in Miracles
 
And so it is.  I have seen it before my own eyes.